5 Normal Traditions With Strange Origins
Do you ever wonder why we do some of the stuff we do to celebrate big events? Most common rituals come from some sort of historical or cultural significance, and we adapt them to best fit modern times. Here are five normal traditions with strange origins that you may have been curious about.
1. Birthday Candles
Most of us are familiar with lighting birthday candles and making a wish. While many people skip this ritual now because nobody wants fire and spit on their cake, it was once a ritual in ancient Greece. The Greeks would make round pastries to represent the moon and light candles as an offering to Athena, the moon goddess. The ancient Greeks believed that the smoke would carry their prayers toward the home of the gods.
2. Best Man at a Wedding
The best man at a wedding is usually your best friend or your brother or someone who has been through a lot with you. Truthfully, there are a lot of wedding traditions with unusual origins, but the best man was originally a mercenary. Grooms would hire the best swordsman they could to stand by their side at the altar. The best man essentially acted as a bodyguard in case the bride’s parents or a jilted lover tried to object during the ceremony.
3. Mistletoe Kiss
The idea of kissing someone if you both stand beneath the mistletoe is probably one of the strangest traditions, but its origins are even stranger. Ancient Celts used the wafting scent of the plant to hang in barns, where it acted as an aphrodisiac for sheep and other livestock. It’s a bit odd to imagine how this became a seemingly romantic ritual, but the idea was that hanging mistletoe meant that romance was in the air.
4. Painting Nails
Most of us paint our nails to get bright, colorful, and fun designs. However, this normal tradition has strange origins dating all the way back to ancient Babylonia. Warriors in 3200 BC who went off to war would paint their nails black and green to instill fear in their opponents. Some historians believe the colors indicated social class, as archeologists found a gold nail manicure set in ancient ruins.
5. Thumbs Up
The thumbs-up is a positive symbol in many different cultures. It’s a short and simple way to indicate that things are good with minimal movement and no speech. But did you know that English archers in the Middle Ages popularized the simple gesture? Archers would use thumbs-up to indicate that everything was good to go because the thumb could measure the ideal longbow brace height.